Hip-hop duo Mango x Mathman the voice of a jilted generation

Hip-hop duo Mango x Mathman the voice of a jilted generation
Music producer/DJ Mathman (left) and rapper Mango, who record as Mango x Mathman.

As well as catchy tunes, the debut album from Dublin hip-hop duo Mango x Mathman articulates some of the concerns of people left behind by a changing Ireland, writes Eoghan O’Sullivan.

Sitting under the bright lights in a plush Dublin city-centre hotel, rapper Mango shifts in his seat, looks around — he doesn’t feel comfortable here.

In fact he’s railing against the changing face of his hometown. He says he wrote ‘Deep Blue’, the lead single off the debut Mango x Mathman album Casual Work, as a love letter to Dublin.

“I don’t think I could write that song now,” sighs the rapper whose birth cert carries the name Karl Mangan.

He adds that the city is changing too fast. “We’re going to look back on this as we look back on, like, Thatcherism or Reaganism.”

‘Deep Blue’, like the album as a whole, swerves through various genres, chiefly grime, Mango’s gruff lines standing out against producer Mathman’s deep-house beats, before Lisa Hannigan’s echoed vocals purr the chorus: “No matter where I go I know you’re always gonna be there waiting for me.”

He says he stayed during the recession despite all his mates heading off to Perth. Now though? “If I was doing my Leaving Cert now, I would not stick around in Dublin.”

He feels like there’s a duality at work, as artistic spaces and hubs are torn down for hotels (“It just makes you feel like you’re unwelcome and you’re like, ‘what are we going to do?’”) despite the fact that said artists, like him, have never been more creative — or outspoken.

“The place is kicking and we have never had so much more to say and so many ways to say it and so many avenues — and how the country is changing.”

Whether he wants the title or not, it certainly sounds like Mango, who grew up in Finglas, is the spokesman for a disillusioned generation.

He became socially conscious in the depths of the recession and, pointing to the likes of Emmet Kirwan’s nation-shaking appearance on the Late Late Show, says:

“The bigger audience or profile, whatever shite you want to call it, I get with music, I think you owe yourself — and the people that I respect, who are bigger like that who are given the microphone — to use it right.”

The Mango x Mathman project grew out of their first hip-hop crew, the Animators, which fractured in the mid-2010s, while the pair bonded over UK grime. One of the skits on Casual Work is a voicemail left by the producer in which he rails against Mango’s seeming disinterest in what they’re creating.

The latter explains how he was going through a severe bout of depression as bad life events seemed to coalesce.

“He’d seen potential in me, you know, and I just didn’t respond to it because I was scared of being out on my own.”

Whereas Mango felt he could hide in the Animators collective.

I knew if it was just me on a record, I would have to tell who I am and who I was so I dunno, there was so much macho bravado tough guy shit that, like, I wasn’t. I had to get a bit of courage and kind of sort me head out. And going back to the studio helped me.

Casual Work is the culmination of their years together, which has seen them go from empty rooms and uncaring support slots to being the stars of the show at Other Voices and headlining festivals with ease, their raucous energy permeating the masses.

Mango says he’s had the title for years but its contents are completely different than what they were at the start.

The Wheel Up EP in late 2017 provided some of their live-set anthems so they felt they needed a fresh look at a full-length record.

Rather than making a big statement with their debut album, they wanted it to say something.

“It’s about love, loss, all that stuff, but it’s also about just growing up around here. You listen to some of the albums that I’ve always loved, it’s about growing up there or a moment in your life.

"And I didn’t want to do the cliche debut album thing of like, here’s where I was born and everything in my life up to this point. I was like, No, I’ve had a mad two, three years. That’s an album. I’ll get to that other stuff eventually.”

Casual Work by Mango x Mathman is out on Friday.

More on this topic

The Killers to come to Malahide Castle for show next JuneThe Killers to come to Malahide Castle for show next June

Iggy Pop's first Irish performance in 12 years will be headlining All Together Now 2020Iggy Pop's first Irish performance in 12 years will be headlining All Together Now 2020

Harry Styles announces world tour including Irish dateHarry Styles announces world tour including Irish date

Rough around the edges: Former Smiths record label manager talks about his latest batch of Irish actsRough around the edges: Former Smiths record label manager talks about his latest batch of Irish acts

More in this Section

Kate Tempest dives deep and dark in Dublin gigKate Tempest dives deep and dark in Dublin gig

A Week in Antiques: Dirty tricks and past political campaignsA Week in Antiques: Dirty tricks and past political campaigns

The dynamic duo behind Rixo aiming to make the brand more affordable and wearableThe dynamic duo behind Rixo aiming to make the brand more affordable and wearable

Last-minute sunshine getaways for ChristmasLast-minute sunshine getaways for Christmas


Latest Showbiz

He was famed for his work with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.Photographer Terry O’Neill dies aged 81

Ian Wright and Caitlyn Jenner are among the stars taking part.Ant and Dec back in the jungle as I’m A Celebrity returns

Styles was both the host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live.Harry Styles pokes fun at former One Direction band mate on US TV

The singer has opened up on a mystery illness.Ariana Grande might cancel tour dates

More From The Irish Examiner